BEST way to develop C-41?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by PeteZ8, Sep 21, 2011.

  1. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    Hopefully this won't start a war; I'm sure there are as many opinions on this as there are methods, but I have some specific talking points.

    Recently I've had some C-41 stuff done at several local labs, one being a very long established "Pro" lab, down to the local camera shop. To the best of my knowledge, they are all using Noritsu processors.

    It seems all of the film (Portra and Ektar) I have had done on the minilabs has come back with too much contrast, pronounced grain, and heavy color casts in the base. Some to the point where I feel they are unusable, even the prints I've had them make (compared to me scanning negs). Not to mention the negs have always come back horribly scratched.

    I have also done a few on my Jobo, with the Jobo 3 bath kit. I find the grain, contrast, and base to be much more under control, but still I'm not sure if I am leaving something on the table. Of course scratching and dust is a complete non issue.

    I'm thinking this all may have to do with developing speed and agitation? The only thing I haven't tried is traditional small tank developing. I'm wondering if the gentler agitation will give me finer grain and smoother tones, or would small tank with a 3 bath kit be about the same in a Jobo CPP2 or small tank?
     
  2. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Three bath kits tend to give too much contrast and grain! This is due to silver retention.

    I use:

    Prewet, 1' to 2' at 100F Several changes of water (2 - 4)
    Develop as recommended
    Bleach
    wash
    Fix
    Wash
    Stabilizer / final rinse

    Details (times and temps) posted in other longish threads on this very subject.

    PE
     
  3. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    minilab machines don't include wash steps. This is crucial if you want archival negatives!

    They also run their developers at a higher temperature, in order to "push" more film through the system(faster turnaround). "Push" doesn't mean an alteration in development(say, if it was underexposed a stop), but because of the "1hr minilab" mentality, they need a faster process than the "standard" c-41 that pro labs run.

    I know many pros that used to shoot headshots for extra cash before they got "big", and they took all their film to the local minilabs to get processed w/ proof prints(which were actually really good back in the optical-print machine days, those agfa machines were nice, agfa color paper was great too) Their stuff has held up fine. Not that they intended it too, but nonetheless. Now though, with 99% of people shooting digitally, film processing machines aren't getting used as much as they used to(by a BIG margin, for example: a friend of mine who owned a minilab(sold it in 2005 after 20years of ownership) said that he was running close to 1000 rolls of 35mm, 120 and 220 film through 3 processors in his shop. 3 printers, checking and color-correcting EACH FRAME. He was about quality, 1st and foremost. He made HUGE amounts of money off of simply processing film and making great prints! He had professional wedding people coming to him, cause he did a better, cleaner job on their film than pro labs they went to.

    Minilab machines aren't bad, but if you want archival negs, and less pronounced grain, use the Digibase chems from Freestyle. They're really good quality, and can deliver great results. OR, use a really good lab that has lots of film running through it, use the search function here to find threads talking about it.

    -Dan
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    OMHO, "best" is a toss up between careful and well-controlled home development in small tanks and dip-n-dunk processing at a busy and well-managed pro lab. And best also means the proper, unabridged C-41 process, with developer, bleach, wash, fixer, wash, and final rinse (formerly stabilizer).

    I use minilabs for snap shots or camera tests. I process at home when I find the time. I take stuff to a pro lab if I need to have it done quickly, if I have a large batch of film that I want done all at once, or if someone else it paying for it.
     
  5. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    This is EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for. Thank you all for actually reading my post and giving me very specific answers to my questions.

    I agree, minilabs were far better 20 years ago than they are now. Most of the stuff I've had done lately is worse than what I got at the grocery store processor 20 years ago! (although at the time, that was probably Kodak).

    So the Freestyle chems are really worth it over the 3 bath kits. Sounds great, I'll add that to the list. This board rocks! :smile:
     
  6. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    One more quick wrench in the works before I go to bed for the night... does anyone have development times for the Digibase kit in a rotary processor? From what I can see in the instructions, it only lists small tank.
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I don't know, except to say that when I hand roll my 4x5 in a Jobo Expert Drum using Kodak chemicals, I use the same times that I use for small tanks with hand agitation.

    Digibase is expensive. It costs a lot even if you reuse it. Do one shot rotary processing with it, and you might as well just send your film to a pro lab for dip-n-dunk processing. It may even be cheaper than doing it one shot with the Digibase chemicals.

    I was happy when they announced the kit, as Kodak discontinued their convenient one gallon kit (120 rolls for $75 at the time it was discontinued). But when Digibase came out, I did the math. IMO, at that price, there is not a lot of reason to use that product. Use it one shot (which you should do with rotary processing) and it is 4 to 5 times worse in terms of value.
     
  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Yeah, Time = Time = Time.

    PE
     
  9. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

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    Agreed re: value (or lack thereof) of the digibase kit. I use the regular kodak chemistry, it's much more economical, though you need to buy it in larger quantities ( enough to make 5Gal usually.)
     
  10. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    Thanks PE! It's great having an asset like you on this forum. If you wouldn't mind answering, why then does my Jobo 3 bath kit list (slightly) different times for rotary vs small tank? Also I was always told that -15% on times for B&W in a drum vs small tank. Is there a reason that does not apply to color? I'm no chemist by far but I can read the heck out of some instructions :wink: If you say it is, I'm not going to argue!

    EdSawyer; I'm pretty sure that no so long ago Freestyle was selling that kit in a 1gal or 1L configuration. I think they were just repacking the Kodak 5gal kits. Doesn't appear they still sell them or that's probably what I would be using.
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I use a Jobo, a small tank and even hard rubber tanks for C-41. I use the same time for all of them! AFAIK, my Jobo does not suggest anything but 3' 15" for the first developer. I have the Jobo auto timer, and it is set at that time in the firmware. So..... Time = Time = Time. For C41 it is 3' 15" at 100F.

    PE
     
  12. PeteZ8

    PeteZ8 Member

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    PE, thank you so much again!

    My Jobo kit states 3:15 for Jobo rotary processor, and 3:30 for dip & dunk or small tank as well as rotary tube @ 104*F. Perhaps they subtract :15 in the Jobo processor to account for drain and fill?

    Again I'll take your word, if you say 3:15 for everything I'll go along with it. :smile:
     
  13. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Thanks for your kind comments and those of everyone. I try to help.

    My Jobo does not have any significant distinction in the instructions AFAIK. I use a standrd 8" fill and drain in my timing. IDK if it is right, but it works. As for dip and dunk... Well there is some fudge factor which involves agitation. If you do it wrong, time goes up or down. At EK in Research , we used Dip and Dunk or Nitrogen Burst. Both gave substantially identical results. At home, I used the Jobo and it was comparable to the results from work.

    PE
     
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  15. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I will second PE in saying that 3:15 in a Jobo gives good results with Kodak developer. I use Kodak Developer and Fix, and Trebla bleach (if my memory holds) from Pakor. Fairly economical that way. I reuse the bleach once, but the others are used one shot.
     
  16. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

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    I began doing my own color this year. So far I've been using the Unicolor C-41 press kit, which seems to work fine except for the horrible grain. Is there any way to deplete that residual silver? It can be corrected digitally of course, but I'd rather have good clean negs to print than scans.

    The sad thing is, even if one wants to use the much better Kodak chemicals there's no instruction as to what you need. I mean, whats a fixer + replenisher all about?
     
  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    You can re-bleach, wash, fix wash and stabilize. That should fix the problem for you unless it is a developer problem. Use a good bleach and fix, not a blix.

    PE
     
  18. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Check the sticky threads in the Darkrroom:Color Chemicals section. There's a reasonable discussion of what all that gobbledy-gook means there.

    And here is a posting from that thread where I posted links to instructions from Ian Mazursky for Kodak chems.

     
  19. AlbertZeroK

    AlbertZeroK Member

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    I'm using a phototherm, they do chemistry as one-shot and I've had Excellent results, of course, I have enough chemistry for atleast 100 Gallons of developer and bleach, so I'm setting on go. when I had a jobo, 3:15 was perfect, but I'm not good with the manual controls of a jobo, I prefer something more automated.

    I do tend to rewash my film after I've developed it for a few minutes using my film washer, I've had issues with spotting. And don't tell PE, but I put a drop of Photoflow in the last dump. Been working fine for the last dozen rolls I've done this with.
     
  20. darkroom_rookie

    darkroom_rookie Member

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    So should Tetenal chemistry with 3-part developer plus required starter, bleach and universal C-41/E-6 fix work well? What type of stabilizer should I have? Do I have to use a different stabilizer with Fuji 160NS expired in 1998?
     
  21. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    Stabilizer will work, not final rinse. I think Tetenal only makes stabilizer IIRC.
     
  22. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Stabilizer will work for all color films - E6 and C41 alike and of all ages. Final rinse will only work with specific films from a certain date onward and will only work with the process it is intended for.

    PE
     
  23. darkroom_rookie

    darkroom_rookie Member

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    What type of final rinse should I look for? I have several types of color negative films, in and out of date, from three manufacturers. However, only Tetenal's chemicals are readily available over here in Croatia, and they're very affordable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 26, 2011
  24. Photo Engineer

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    With films earlier than about 2000, you must use a formalin based stabilizer. Since we don't know what the actual cutoff date is, and we don't know which manufacturers changed over their film chemistry, it is always safe to use a formalin based stabilizer.

    PE
     
  25. darkroom_rookie

    darkroom_rookie Member

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  26. Photo Engineer

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    It says low formaldehyde content. Well, it might be too low. IDK. Sorry.

    You need 3 - 10 ml / liter of 38% formalin to do the job right with E6 or old C41 films. If it is below 3 ml/l then it can become ineffective.

    PE